Nairobi, 12th February 2021
I never knew I went through some form of abuse, until I went through Safe guarding Children in Sports education and I am aware that some of us who are going to come across this piece will agree with me fully. The first thing you need to do to stamp out Child abuse is to have clarity about what it is.
Safeguarding and protecting Children and young people in Sports is all about how we are going to make sure that Sports experience is not only positive but safe. This is a very sensitive topic because some of these abuses are taking place in our houses, sports clubs and in schools.
Some of us might give responses like, it does not happen a lot, or it is more likely in some sports but not in mine. There are two main reason for this kind of response or misconception, First and foremost, Coaches and parents think that Child Abuse include only sexual abuse and corporal punishment. But Child abuse involves much wide behaviors, including some that are currently accepted as the norm in certain sports or contexts.
Secondly, a lot of Child abuse goes unreported and we never know about it until years have passed and as adults abused athletes finally gather courage to speak up and confront their abusers.
Research shows that Child abuse in Sports is much more prevalent than what people may think for example according to UNICEF report dated 16th July 2020, Around one in two young adults in Kenya experienced violence as a child – according to a new national study implemented by the Government of Kenya’s Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. The study was led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in partnership with Together for Girls and with additional support from President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and UNICEF.
In a survey of organized Sports in the United Kingdom in 2011, 75% of Children and young people reported emotionally harmful treatment during their participation. Nearly 30% reported different forms of sexual harassment.
More and more studies confirm similar finding across the world and across all sports and these studies shows that not only coaches who are the perpetrators. In fact research shows that teammates are the most common abusers, particularly when it comes to emotional abuse. Parents have also been shown to play a big part. When we get up- close, Children’s Sport is not always a pretty picture.
For us to put effective measures to protect Children, we need to understand the difference between Safe guarding and protecting Children in Sports. According to UNICEF international Safeguards for Children in Sports, Safeguarding refers to the action we take to ensure that ALL Children are safe from harm when involved in other clubs and activities, While Child protection is a set of activities that are required to Specific Children who are at risk of or are already suffering harm.
Simply put, Safeguarding is about prevention, while protection is about detection and correction. Remember, Better safe than sorry and prevention is better than cure. I believe that this is just the begin for us as Sport for development fraternity to have a candid conversation about tangible steps that we are going to take to be coach safe, Child safe, Organization safe, community safe and social media safe.
I do understand that we live in different jurisdictions and that every country has their laws that govern Child protection, but the language of football is one, participants will have to go to the field at some point, interact with other Children and be in company of an adult or someone who will be responsible. We all have a moral responsibility to safe guard and protect the interest of Children in our communities; I am looking forward to move this conversation from just mere document in the shelves to a living document that will be engraved in our social fabric of our communities. We will be having Child Protection Policy discussions, where I will be joined Community Coaches, teachers, youth leaders and community elders, I will be looking forward to uncover the myths, facts and normalized abuses that have been instigated to Children at home, schools, sports arena, just to mention a few
Will you join me?